Updated 8/1/2019: Sporting KC made the move official today. He is signed through 2021 and the team holds an option for 2022. No word on where the team will get the international spot to actually allow him to play.
The secondary transfer window is open and Sporting Kansas City are reportedly making a move. As we stated a couple weeks ago, Portuguese fullback Luis Martins has been linked to SKC (along with 30 other players). According the KC Star’s Sam McDowell the signing is now just pending receipt of his visa and international transfer certificate.
Martins isn’t a splashy signing that many fans will be hoping for but he checks a lot of boxes for Sporting KC. First, he’s apparently quite fast, though some rudimentary research shows that may have dropped off a bit.
Second, he’s a left back, a position Peter Vermes has been trying to replace for years. Apparently SKC were interested in Martins this past offseason but he had a large transfer fee so instead the club signed Rodney Wallace who famously (infamously?) played 27 league minutes before going down for the season with an injury.
Which brings us to the third box he checks, Martins and his former club, Chaves, agreed to mutually terminate his deal after they were relegated from the Premeira Liga, Portugal’s top division. That means he is available on a free transfer. PV’s ears just perked up.
Another plus is his salary will reportedly not require allocation money to be bought down meaning he’s coming in somewhere under the 2019 MLS max budget charge of $530,000.
And finally he’s just 27-years-old, which instantly makes him one of the younger defenders on the team. The current starters are Seth Sinovic (32), Matt Besler (32), Botond Barath (27) and Graham Zusi (32, 33 in August). Only the currently backups are younger: Jimmy Medranda (25), Graham Smith (23) and Jaylin Lindsey (19).
Where Does Martins Fit In?
Some people may not see Martins joining as a need. The team already has Seth Sinovic and Jimmy Medranda at left back. However, Sinovic only has an option on his deal for next year and he could conceivably have that declined (though I would keep him around).
Medranda is in the same boat with a guaranteed deal through 2019 and an option for 2020 that it seems SKC would be crazy not to pick up. And it’s unclear if Medranda’s best position is even at left back as he just had a rehab start for the Swope Park Rangers as a midfielder. He’s also played as a midfielder and a winger numerous times for Sporting KC.
Even though Martins will likely join within the next few weeks, it seems unlikely he takes over as the starter in 2019. Sinovic, despite all attempts to replace him, is firmly entrenched as the starter. Medranda is more than capable at that position too. And Jaylin Lindsey has returned to practice and he put in a decent amount of time at left back in 2018.
International Roster Spots
Another hurdle to Martins joining the club is the lack of an available international roster spot. SKC currently only have seven of their eight as they traded one away along with Abdul Rwatubyaye in the Benny Feilhaber trade. Those seven players are Yohan Croizet, Johnny Russell, Felipe Gutierrez, Krisztian Nemeth, Andreu Fontas, Botond Barath and Nicolas Hasler.
There are a few options to remedy the situation. Sporting KC could trade for a spot but that would require giving up future assets. Peter Vermes has said the team needs it’s allocation money to stay cap compliant in 2020.
Another option is to rid themselves of one of their current internationals. Fontas hasn’t made an appearance since the mauling LAFC handed SKC on July 3rd. Since then he wasn’t even in the 18 for two games and only returned as Graham Smith was on loan (and starting) for the Swope Park Rangers last weekend. The problem with Fontas is his salary is huge and definitely no one in MLS will want him. It’s possible no one abroad would want him, even if SKC didn’t charge a transfer fee. Or even if they did want him, why would he leave unless they were going to match or improve upon his pay? That seems unlikely considering his current form.
The last option, and as I see it the most likely, is that Nico Hasler gets cut. He was already released by the Chicago Fire to make room for Designated Player Nicolas Gaitan. He was then immediately signed to play right back because Lindsey was injured but Lindsey has since returned to practice and Graham Zusi has drastically improved his poor form from earlier in 2019. Personally, it’s hard for me to imagine the team trading or releasing any of their other internationals and McDowell’s story said there are no pending green cards on the horizon.
For more information on Luis Martins, check out Mike Kuhn’s story from when the rumor initially surfaced. The Blue Testament will bring you more if and when the deal is made official.